Jordan Wicks tossed seven shutout innings while Dylan Phillips launched a two-run home run to propel K-State to its first win of the 2020 season, a 4-0 victory over UT Rio Grande Valley Sunday afternoon at UTRGV Baseball Stadium.
Wicks, the reigning Big 12 Freshman of the Year, struck out seven and did not issue a walk in holding UTRGV scoreless. The left-hander from Conway, Arkansas, scattered four hits and retired the Vaqueros in order in four separate innings in turning in the ninth quality start of his career.
“He was awesome,” head coach Pete Hughes said of Wicks’ outing. “What better guy to get you back on the winning side than that kid. Everybody in our dugout trusts him, every coach trusts him. He’s got really good stuff and he was awesome today.”
Redshirt junior Tyler Eckberg entered the game two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth inning but worked out of trouble to preserve the shutout and pick up a four-out save. Eckberg, who missed nearly all last season with an injury, struck out one in picking up the eighth save of his career and first since 2018.
“Proud of him, he got the game ball,” added Hughes of Eckberg. “He was tireless in his rehab for almost a year, for that moment. It was great to see him execute in a high-leverage situation but with really, really good stuff. We are so proud of Tyler.”
Phillips’ homer came in the fourth inning and handed K-State (1-2) a 2-0 lead. Cameron Thompson led off the inning with a walk and later stole second before Phillips connected on his 11th career homer. Phillips, a sophomore who set the program’s freshman home run record with 10, snapped a 0 for 8 streak to begin the year.
“Big hit and good for him for grinding and grinding,” Hughes said of Phillips. “This game will beat you down if you let it. You’ve got to stay in the right place and stay focused. He did that enough to get us going and took a lot of pressure off us. There’s a ton of confidence when you have a two-run lead and Wicks is on the mound throwing like he was.”
The fifth inning saw the Wildcats double their lead, as Blake Burrows sparked the frame with a single and a stolen base before scoring on a triple off the bat of Zach Kokoska. Kokoska would come around to score on a single by Thompson.
Burrows led the Cats with a pair of hits, going 2 for 4 with two steals. In total, K-State swiped five bases in the game.
UTRGV (2-1) starting pitcher Christian Ramos gave up the home run to Phillips as he allowed three earned runs on three hits in 4 1/3 innings in taking the loss.